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Graduate Degree Training by U.S. Land Grant Universities Builds Scientific Expertise in Developing Countries

The Feed the Future Food Security Innovation Lab: Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes (formerly known as the Dry Grain Pulses CRSP) recently conducted a survey to examine the impact of its investment in 496 international students who came to U.S. land-grant universities to earn 554 graduate degrees between 1981 and 2005.

The findings suggest that a very high percentage of trainees return to their home countries to pursue careers in research related to agriculture and food security. Of those who responded to the survey, 86 percent said they returned to their home countries after completing their graduate degree programs. Virtually all stated that their graduate program and dry grain pulse research gave them excellent preparation for their current careers, and 92 percent said their graduate program was relevant to their current employment. 

Respondents frequently noted the importance of learning to design, conduct and analyze scientific research as critical to their training. This training program, which is ongoing under Feed the Future, is unique because trainees are selected to study disciplines based on the scientific needs of the universities and institutions from which they come. This selection criterion is likely a key factor in the high rate of return of these professionals to their home countries. Upon return, these individuals are well placed to significantly advance research on grain legumes for their nation and the larger scientific community.

Over the years, this selection process has developed a core cadre of trained grain legume scientists and researchers in Africa and Latin America. Funded by USAID since 1980, the Grain Legumes Innovation Lab is based at Michigan State University and is a consortium of U.S. land grant universities and national partners in Africa and Latin America. Together they conduct research on grain legumes (i.e. beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas, etc.) and their value chains, while increasing the capacity of partnering agricultural research institutions in countries where these crops make a significant contribution to economic growth, nutrition and food security.

The Grain Legumes Innovation Lab contributes approximately 21-25 percent of its funds each year to training and capacity building. These funds help leverage additional resources from U.S. universities.

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